Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Mary Fahl: “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” (2022) CD Review

Singer and songwriter Mary Fahl turns to the work of other artists on her new album, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head. She chooses songs from her formative years, songs that played an important role in her youth. Remember that time in your life when songs seemed to speak directly to you, when each song had some critical truth to reveal, when you listened with attentive ears? Each new album seemed to open up a world. It is one reason I think many of us began collecting records, to be able to hold onto those truths, those moments, to be able to revisit them whenever we wished or needed. It is a shame that sometimes the sense of excitement decreases as we grow up, but what is so interesting is that many (though not all) the songs that really meant something to us in our youth retain some of that power throughout our lives. On this album, Mary Fahl revisits some of the songs that, as she says in the liner notes, became part of her “musical DNA.” Joining her on this release is Mark Doyle, who plays most of the instruments, including guitar, keyboards, and bass, and who also produced the album. Josh Dekaney is on drums and vibraphone. There is also a string section, made up of Edgar Tumajyan on violin, Jonathan Hwang on violin, Noemi Miloradovic on violin, Joe Davoli on violin, Jessica Tumajyan viola, and Kate LaVerne on cello.

Mary Fahl opens this album with “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” the Electric Light Orchestra song that functions as the title track. This is one of the most beautiful ELO songs. It comes from the 1974 album Eldorado, which was the first ELO album I ever purchased. This is a song that has its own distinctive feel, its own world. Listening to it is like stepping into someone else’s dream that somehow turns out to also be your dream. And Mary Fahl does an absolutely wonderful job with it, turning in a heartfelt vocal performance. The string section adds to this rendition’s beauty, and I love that guitar work in the middle.  She follows one of the most beautiful ELO songs with one of the most beautiful Stones songs, “Ruby Tuesday.” I always liked this song, but it was when I heard Melanie Safka’s rendition that I was struck by the song’s power. That was when I really fell for the song. And while Mary Fahl’s rendition is quite a bit different from Melanie’s, it has a similar quality, a certain strength. There is a great passion in her delivery, which makes it captivating.

Of course there is something playful in following “Ruby Tuesday” with “Tuesday Afternoon.” I suppose she could also have gone with Cat Stevens’ “Tuesday’s Dead” or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone,” but this is another excellent choice. And, yes, Days Of Future Passed was the first Moody Blues album I ever bought, so she has chosen songs that have been important in my own life. Mary Fahl delivers an interesting rendition, featuring some great stuff from the string section. I like that added vocal part, with the repetition of “Tuesday afternoon,” which is revisited as the song fades out at the end. Then “River Man” is a song from Nick Drake’s 1969 LP Five Leaves Left, and here Mary Fahl delivers one of the album’s best vocal performances. At times it is stunning, and at more than one moment, it made me think of some incredible combination of Joni Mitchell and Grace Slick. This track also features some nice work on keys.

“Got A Feelin’” comes from that phenomenal record If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears, released by The Mamas And The Papas in 1966. It’s the album with that infamous photo on the cover, showing the band members in a bathtub next to a toilet. That group was known for their stellar vocals, so covering their material invites comparisons. Mary Fahl certainly has the vocal talent to tackle any of their songs, and does a really good job with this song. Then from Neil Young, she chooses “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” a song from After The Gold Rush, and delivers a powerful rendition. This version features some excellent work from the string section.

In 2011, Mary Fahl released an album titled From The Dark Side Of The Moon, where she presented her own song-by-song cover of the Pink Floyd album. She revisits Pink Floyd here, this time choosing “Comfortably Numb.” This is a song I loved when I was a kid, but, unlike the rest of the songs on this release, is one I no longer care for. Any Pink Floyd that doesn’t include Syd Barrett isn’t appealing to me anymore. From Pink Floyd to Judy Collins? Why not? Here Mary Fahl makes another interesting choice, giving us “Since You Asked,” a song from Collins’ 1967 LP Wildflowers. She delivers a gorgeous rendition. That’s followed by George Harrison’s “Beware Of Darkness,” which of course comes from All Things Must Pass (sometimes it seems like all of his songs are contained on that one triple album). This is an excellent and passionate version, strengthened by the string section. Her version will likely give you a fresh appreciation for this song. But perhaps the most interesting selection on this release is “The Great Valerio,” a song from Richard And Linda Thompson’s 1974 record I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, and the song she has chosen to close this album. I’ve long been a big fan of Richard Thompson’s work, and the albums he recorded with Linda Thompson are among his best. This is folk with a dark edge, and Mary Fahl’s version has a haunting quality.

CD Track List

  1. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head
  2. Ruby Tuesday
  3. Tuesday Afternoon
  4. River Man
  5. Got A Feelin’
  6. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
  7. Comfortably Numb
  8. Since You’ve Asked
  9. Beware Of Darkness
  10. The Great Valerio

Can’t Get It Out Of My Head was released on July 22, 2022 on Rimar Records.

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